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Inca terraces in the Sacred Valley, Peru
Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Indelible Memory: A Hike Above the Sacred Valley

October 9, 2017

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We began our trek on a cloudless morning, in the small dirt plaza of a sleepy Andean village, at an elevation of just over 13,000 feet. Even at such a high altitude, the thin mountain air felt crisp and invigorating. Ahead of us, a woman wearing a scarlet pollera, the traditional handwoven woolen skirt of Peru, shooed an unruly herd of alpacas down the winding track through fields of tawny stubble. A two-hour hike brought us to a vantage point on the southern flank of the Sacred Valley, from where we gazed across at the snowcapped peaks of the Urubamba mountain range. Crenellated glaciers descended from the 19,394-foot Veronica, their huge seracs and crevasses looking at this distance like ridges and troughs on a colossal sheet of crumpled paper. A thousand feet below, the extraordinary circular terraces that the Incas had carved into the hillside centuries earlier appeared like giant corrugated seashells.

Snow-covered mountain peaks seen from our hike in the Sacred Valley, Peru - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Inca terraces in the Sacred Valley, Peru - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
A hiking trail and the summit of Veronica (19,394 feet) overlooking the Sacred Valley, Peru - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Feeling little inclination to move, we lay on the warm earth, swigging from our water bottles, cooled by a gusting breeze. In a field next to the trail, two sunburned Quechua people were grubbing in the cinnamon-colored soil for potatoes, the staple crop of the high Andes. Their ancestors were probably doing much the same thing when Pizarro made his peremptory and epoch-changing entrance into Peruvian history. Indeed, the scene was so timeless that it was possible to reimagine the pre-Columbian world and to believe, if only for a moment, that the walls of the Coricancha, Cusco’s Temple of the Sun, were still covered in sheets of gold.

We began our trek on a cloudless morning, in the small dirt plaza of a sleepy Andean village, at an elevation of just over 13,000 feet. Even at such a high altitude, the thin mountain air felt crisp and invigorating. Ahead of us, a woman wearing a scarlet pollera, the traditional handwoven woolen skirt of Peru, shooed an unruly herd of alpacas down the winding track through fields of tawny stubble. A two-hour hike brought us to a vantage point on the southern flank of the Sacred Valley, from where we gazed across at the snowcapped peaks of the Urubamba mountain range. Crenellated glaciers descended from the 19,394-foot Veronica, their huge seracs and crevasses looking at this distance like ridges and troughs on a colossal sheet of crumpled paper. A thousand feet below, the extraordinary circular terraces that the Incas had carved into the hillside centuries earlier appeared like giant corrugated seashells.

Snow-covered mountain peaks seen from our hike in the Sacred Valley, Peru - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Inca terraces in the Sacred Valley, Peru - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
A hiking trail and the summit of Veronica (19,394 feet) overlooking the Sacred Valley, Peru - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Feeling little inclination to move, we lay on the warm earth, swigging from our water bottles, cooled by a gusting breeze. In a field next to the trail, two sunburned Quechua people were grubbing in the cinnamon-colored soil for potatoes, the staple crop of the high Andes. Their ancestors were probably doing much the same thing when Pizarro made his peremptory and epoch-changing entrance into Peruvian history. Indeed, the scene was so timeless that it was possible to reimagine the pre-Columbian world and to believe, if only for a moment, that the walls of the Coricancha, Cusco’s Temple of the Sun, were still covered in sheets of gold.

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This article appeared in The Hideaway Report, a monthly newsletters exclusively for members.

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